Saint Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444 AD)
Feast Day: May 20
Bernardine was born into an aristocratic family in Massa Marittima, Italy; at an early age, he lost his parents and was raised his aunt. His aunt was a devout Catholic who counseled Bernardine to follow the Christian life, and therefore laid the foundation of virtue on Bernardine since childhood.
Bernardine was smart and diligent. He was ranked at the top for every exam. His temperament was gentle, courteous and polite, and his classmates were very friendly with him. He entered the Confraternity of Our Lady at the age of seventeen. Members of this charity, in addition to doing good works to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, often go to hospitals to minister to patients.
In the 1400s, the plague came to Siena which resulted in countless deaths. In the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala, there were as many as twenty deaths per day. Later, almost all the hospital staff were infected with the disease. Bernardine recruited a group of heroic young people to care for the sick and took charge of the hospital. Under the leadership of Bernardine, the youth worked in the hospital day and night for four months. In addition to taking care of the patients’ material needs, Bernardine also helped them to have a peaceful death. After several months, Bernardine suffered from a serious illness and recovered a few months later.
At the age of twenty-two, Bernardine joined the Observant branch of the Order of Friars Minor which had a strict observance of the Rule of St. Francis. In 1403, he made a wish. He was ordained a priest in 1404, and one year later, he was commissioned as a preacher. From then on, he preached part of the time and spent the other part of his time living in virtue in the monastery.
At that time, Bernardine lived in the Friary. A novice monk, after completing the morning prayers every morning shouted: “Bernardine the monk, don’t hide the talent that God has given you, and hurry to Lombardi, where everyone is waiting for you!” This went on for three days. When people admonished the novice monk for being too loud in the hall, he said: “I can’t help but say it, an invisible force has compelled me to say these words.” The superiors in the friary and Bernard himself agreed that this was the command of the Lord. So, Bernardine immediately went to Milan to preach. It was the end of 1417.
When Bernardine went to Milan, the local people were totally unfamiliar with his kind of character. But with his amazing eloquence, he soon became a famous preacher. His voice was originally hoarse and his pronunciation wasn’t clear; which is a big drawback for a preacher. But he prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary and his voice suddenly became loud, his pronunciation became clear, his preaching became even more touching, and his words entered the hearts of his listeners.
Bernardine traversed all parts of Italy except Naples. Every time he went, he preached for hours. He would sometimes preach a few times a day. When the people knew he would arrive in a certain place on a certain day, they would come from all directions, and the church would not be big enough to accommodate so many people. Therefore, Bernardine usually preached in the open air of the square.
In his sermons, Bernardine urged his listeners to repent. He publicly condemned all kinds of bad habits in society. Bernard was fully committed to preaching the Holy Name of Jesus. Thanks to his passionate advocacy, many of the religious images on the walls of the buildings of Italian cities were painted with the abbreviation of the Holy Name of Jesus. He truly deserved to be called the apostle of the Holy Name of Jesus.
The residents of Bologna like to gamble. After Bernardine’s persuasion, everyone made up their minds to quit gambling, taking all the cards and gambling tools to the streets and burned them. A merchant who printed cards came to complain. His business stopped and he encountered problems in life. Bernardine persuaded him to print instead the monogram of the Holy Name of Jesus, and his business boomed.
Bernardine’s preaching yielded great results everywhere. The pagans converted, the sinners repented, those lukewarm in their faith became passionate believers, changing their bad habits and correcting the bad social atmosphere. Some people complained to the Pope about him, but after the Pope’s investigation Bernardine was vindicated, and he was permitted to preach everywhere. Bernardine was offered the bishopric of Siena, which he humbly refused. He thought that if he accepted the appointment of the bishop, he would not be free to travel and serve most of the faithful.
In 1438, Bernardine gave up his missionary work and served as the Vicar General of the Franciscans. At the time when he first joined the Franciscans, there were only about 300 members in Italy was only 300. When he died, the number of members rose to 4,000.
Bernardine paid great attention to the academic research of the scholars and contributed to the research work of the scholars on theology and canon law. He was very knowledgeable and proficient in Latin. His Latin sermons were very well written. His knowledge of Greek was also deep. During the Council of Florence, he gave a speech in Greek to the Greek representatives.
In 1442, Bernardine persuaded Pope Eugene IV to accept his resignation as Vicar General of the Franciscans and devoted himself to the work of preaching. He resumed his past lifestyle, traveled around and preached in public. At that time, he was very weak and skinny, and he traveled on a donkey. In 1444, in Massa Marittima, he talked for fifty days about fasting, and he was exhausted. He knew that the death was not far away. Finally, he set out for Naples. On the way, every time he went into a city, he preached publicly. Finally, due to weakness, he died of illness in Aquila on May 20, 1444 (the day before the Ascension). Bernardine was 64 years old and spent a total of 42 years as a friar. There were many miracles after Bernardine’s death. After six years, he was canonized a saint on May 24, 1450 by Pope Nicholas V.
From a sermon by Saint Bernadine of Siena on St. Joseph
The faithful foster-father and guardian
There is a general rule concerning all special graces granted to any human being. Whenever the divine favor chooses someone to receive a special grace, or to accept a lofty vocation, God adorns the person chosen with all the gifts of the Spirit needed to fulfill the task at hand.
This general rule is especially verified in the case of Saint Joseph, the foster-father of our Lord and the husband of the Queen of our world, enthroned above the angels. He was chosen by the eternal Father as the trustworthy guardian and protector of his greatest treasures, namely, his divine Son and Mary, Joseph’s wife. He carried out this vocation with complete fidelity until at last God called him, saying: Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.
What then is Joseph’s position in the whole Church of Christ? Is he not a man chosen and set apart? Through him and, yes, under him, Christ was fittingly and honorably introduced into the world. Holy Church in its entirety is indebted to the Virgin Mother because through her it was judged worthy to receive Christ. But after her we undoubtedly owe special gratitude and reverence to Saint Joseph.
In him the Old Testament finds its fitting close. He brought the noble line of patriarchs and prophets to its promised fulfillment. What the divine goodness had offered as a promise to them, he held in his arms.
Obviously, Christ does not now deny to Joseph that intimacy, reverence and very high honor which he gave him on earth, as a son to his father. Rather we must say that in heaven Christ completes and perfects all that he gave at Nazareth.
Now we can see how the last summoning words of the Lord appropriately apply to Saint Joseph: Enter into the joy of your Lord. In fact, although the joy of eternal happiness enters into the soul of a man, the Lord preferred to say to Joseph: Enter into joy. His intention was that the words should have a hidden spiritual meaning for us. They convey not only that this holy man possesses an inward joy, but also that it surrounds him and engulfs him like an infinite abyss.
Remember us, Saint Joseph, and plead for us to your foster-child. Ask your most holy bride, the Virgin Mary, to look kindly upon us, since she is the mother of him who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns eternally. Amen.